So far, my favorite experience in LA has been my visit to The Huntington’s botanical gardens, art collection and library. The Huntington was founded in 1919 by Henry E. Huntington. He accumulated one of the finest research libraries in the world, established an art collection, and on top of these he also created several different botanical gardens with plants and flowers from all over the world. The entire place is fascinating. It was magical to see rare treasures such as Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales and stumble into a world that looks straight out of a Dr. Seuss book.
The Huntington is a great day trip because there is so much to see and it really can take an entire day. Check out the main website beforehand, so you get an idea of what The Huntington has to offer and decide what you are interested in seeing. Remember you can always change your plans once you’re there, but if you want to see everything then you better arrive when the doors open so you can stay right up until close.
Before you leave, make sure to pack a water bottle. If you forget, you can always purchase water when you enter at the café; you will want it. Of course, bring your floppy hat with you to protect yourself from the sun. I wore a long maxi dress, which ended up getting filthy from dragging along the dirt paths. I recommend a knee length sundress. Lastly, let your big purse sit this one out. You won’t want to lug it around all day. A wristlet or small crossover bag is best.
Desert Garden: It’s probably best to arrive early and go to the Desert Garden first before the sun gets too high. My friends and I didn’t arrive until close to noon, so it was quite hot out. The Desert Garden made me feel as though I somehow found my way inside a Dr. Seuss book; he obviously was inspired by Southern California. The garden includes a range of succulents and several different kinds of cacti that I had never seen or heard of.
Lily Ponds: You can see the path leading into the Lily Ponds from the Desert Garden so it was naturally our next stop. We saw a group walking through a cluster of bamboo trees, so we headed in their direction. We followed a wooden path with bamboo trees sheltering us on either side until we reached the Lily Ponds. We took some time to watch the Koi fish swim in swarms and turtles find lily pads for rest. It was a very relaxing and quiet.
Jungle Garden: We came upon a sign pointing towards the Jungle Garden and it looked very well shaded, so I was all about heading in the that direction. When we entered I could hear rushing water. We made our way up the winding path until we reached a waterfall at the top, which provided a nice cool breeze. The Jungle Garden was made up of massive trees with vines draping from the branches and a blanket of ferns covered the ground.
Rose Garden: The roses blooming season begins end of March and extends beyond Thanksgiving, so there weren’t too many roses to look at. My friends and I made a quick loop around to at least check out the few that bloomed early. I can imagine it is quite beautiful when all the roses are bloomed. Good enough reason for me to plan a trip back soon!
Japanese Garden: When I entered the Japanese Garden, it was quite obvious which garden is the most popular. I took some time contemplating under a pergola, with purple flowers hanging over the top and framing the enormous garden. There are several ponds and paths through the garden and a beautifully structured moon bridge.
Chinese Garden: My favorite garden. I learned it is amongst the largest Chinese-style gardens outside of China. The Chinese Garden is my favorite because each door way and window is created to view a series of carefully composed scenes. Each frame is like a beautiful landscape painting.
The Huntington Art Collections: The art galleries are great stops in between the various gardens in case you need a break from the heat. My friends and I cooled off as we viewed some famous pieces The Huntington has to offer including Three Witches, Blue Boy, Madonna with Child and many more. For you art history majors, the collections focus on European art from the 15th to the early 20th century, and American art from the late 17th to the mid-20th century.
The Huntington Library: I love libraries and this library is so incredibly special because it contains a rare book collection including the Canterbury Tales, Gutenberg’s Bible, and the first folio edition of William Shakespeare’s collected plays. The library also has a science exhibit containing original drawings of the human body, which I found to be very interesting.
Rose Garden Tea Room: If you choose to spend the entire day at The Huntington, have lunch at the Rose Garden Tea Room. Make reservations ahead of time, because the tea room does get busy. Tea was a great break from walking around the gardens and museums. I definitely built up an appetite and I was especially thirsty. Once you are seated you are greeted by your waiter and given freshly made scones. You then select which tea you prefer. I was sold on their best seller – rose tea. I’m not usually fond of floral teas, but it was very good. The food is served buffet style and includes several different sandwiches, salads, cheese and crackers, and cookies and bars. You can reload your plate as many times as you want!
There is no right or wrong way to experience The Huntington, but it is a must see if you are in the area. Spend a day at the estate and take your time wandering through. You never know where you’ll end up or what you’ll discover!